Webinar Q&A: Medium & Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Electric Truck Action Plan for California - November 8, 2016

The members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership prepared the Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Vehicle Action Plan for California to accelerate the development and commercialization of medium-and heavy-duty FCEVs in California. Federal air quality targets, AB 32 GHG reduction targets, and State’s transport electrification targets, combined with the goals of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, make California a favorable place to launch zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty transportation technologies.

On November 8, Nico Bouwkamp provided an overview to the Action Plan’s recommendations to support the commercialization of FCETs. You can download the presentation or watch a recording of the webinar. The questions below were answered during the webinar, and these written answers provide additional detail.

Could you give a sense of how many MD and HD fuel cell trucks are on the road in CA and nationally? 
FCETs are in very early demonstrations. A few have been previously deployed in California, Texas, Michigan, and Hawaii, but none are on the road now. Trucks in 11 separately funded projects are in development.

Do we have visibility of total miles travelled, or gallons of diesel consumers?
The Action Plan used the graph below that was generated from CALHEAT data and displays the number of trucks by class and the vehicle miles travelled annually.

Truck population by class and miles

Do you know how many HD MD truck conversion companies are actively modifying trucks now?
To our knowledge, only the companies that have grants for demonstration projects are modifying trucks— BAE Systems, Hydrogenics, Transpower, Unique Electric Solutions (USL), University of Texas Center for Electromechanics, US Hybrid, and Workhorse Group.

Do you believe that the only way truck OEMs will move toward zero emissions is if they are mandated to do so?  Do you have any updates on the status of ZEV credits for MD and HD vehicles?
The California Fuel Cell Partnership does not take a position on incentives or regulations. The California Sustainable Freight Action Plan is the best source of information. In addition, the US EPA’s heavy-duty GHG Phase 2 standards include advanced technology credit multipliers to incentivize OEMs to develop medium- and heavy-duty ZEV technologies as part of their compliance strategies through model year 2027.

Focusing on fleet-based truck operations makes sense in the early market, but the long haul trucks account for a large portion of the heavy duty market. Will long haul trucks also be a major topic in the near future?
We expect that as the technology successfully reaches technical readiness level 5 or 6 in the drayage and package delivery trucks, it will start moving into other vehicle classes.

How were the metric targets developed? These targets seem to be significantly less than the baseline vehicle. Do you have a customer database to support the targets?
The medium-duty targets are based on input provided by the project partners in the government funded package delivery truck projects. The heavy-duty targets are based on a California Energy Commission funded study to assess zero-emission drayage truck technology options for the ports in the South Coast air basin. Truck operators provided direct input for both sets of targets, which meet daily needs.

What happened to Vision Industries/Vision Motors?
The Vision truck was one of the first demonstration units and it provided valuable information for the trucks under development now. In 2014, Vision Industries filed for bankruptcy protection.

What's the relative scale of pollution of trucks versus passenger vehicles?
According to the California Energy Commission’s 2016-2017 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, freight transport accounts for 23 percent of on-road greenhouse gas emissions.  The Air Resources Board reports that trucks and buses account for about 32 percent of the statewide emissions of NOx and about 40 percent of diesel PM emissions from all mobile sources.

With MD and HD FCET on the road already, are we really looking at 7-15 years to develop new platforms, or something less to ramp production on existing platforms?
Currently, the 2 medium- and heavy-duty truck vocations identified in the Action Plan are at Technology Readiness Level 3—component evaluation. The demonstration projects are expected to advance the selected vocations into the 4-5 range—systems integration. Manufacturers often make production decisions at TRL 7 (vehicle verification), and ramping up the production line takes about two years from that point. Truck manufacturers indicated that new platforms developed around a completely new power train technology can be expected to take 7-15 years.

Using the light-duty station network for MD/HD should be on the priority list. This impacts technology selection and future station design. 
Originally, CaFCP members thought that LD vehicles and MD/HD vehicles would share the same stations, and several of the demonstration stations were built to accommodate both types of vehicles. We’ve learned that moving forward this is a likely scenario only in locations that can have separate dispensers for trucks and for cars for three reasons:

  • Cars and trucks use different fueling protocols
  • Trucks need more space to maneuver
  • Trucks use more fuel and, therefore, take longer to fill.

Ideally, the first hydrogen stations for trucks will be located at a site like a commercial truck stop.